Pre-Law Student Workshop: LSAT Preparation as a Process

February 27, 2003

On Thursday February 27, 2003, pre-law students met in Room 2065 of the Political Science Department for a workshop on LSAT preparation. The workshop began with a presentation by Emma Whitley, a peer pre-law advisor at UNM. Emma shared her experiences and research on successful LSAT preparation. She provided handouts and donated books for UNM's new Pre-Law Library.

Emma emphasized the importance of what she called "home study," that is, studying on her own. She read books on LSAT strategies and she worked through old LSATs. By working on actual LSAT questions over and over (by using the old tests), she was able to: a) identify her strengths and weaknesses; b) re-train herself in areas of weakness so that she could anticipate and avoid the mistakes she had been inclined to make; and c) pick up speed.

She emphasied:

  • while commercial preparation books are helpful introductory-level readings, they should not be used to practice the test; the questions in the commercial preparation books are easier than the actual LSAT questions and can delude students into a false sense of security (another student in the group confirmed Emma's statement);
  • take old LSAT tests, buy a stop watch and time yourself, and concentrate on accuracy as well as picking up speed;
  • personalize the preparation; take time to assess how you learn (circling, underlining, breaking down questions) and use that self-knowledge to develop a test preparation strategy;
  • join a study group, give/get support for staying focused and self-disciplined in preparation; the study group will help keep your motivation and self-discipline levels higher than you are likely to be able to do on your own;
  • expect the worst on the exam day in terms of distractions, annoying events, stress, discomfort, poor lighting, etc.; Emma told us that she consistently scored higher on her self-tests/practice-tests than she did on the actual LSAT; the disparity in scores can be due to nerves, noises, uncomfortable desks, annoying chatter from fellow test-takers, etc.;
  • start early: give yourself months to prepare for the LSAT and don't underestimate yourself and your ability to improve your score by hard work and focused study;
  • treat preparation like a class--go to the library, turn off the tv/radio, sit upright at a desk--because it is work and you are in training.

Emma's handout outlined:

  • the format, length, and scoring method of the LSAT;
  • tips on each section (for example, being an "active reader" in the reading comprehension section; remembering items like scope and tone);
  • her personal experiences (for example, the importance of reminding herself: "The LSAT is not just about how good you are at any given section; it's about processing information quickly and actively and moving on");
  • her reflections on "in a perfect world, what to do differently" (for example, she stressed that all students should start early, early, early in preparing for the LSAT).

Following Emma's presentation, I underscored some additional points:

  • LSAT preparation is a process. Choose classes which truly teach you skills so that every class you take is "preparation for the LSAT." Do a self-assessment by asking yourself: are my classes helping me to improve my reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning skills? If not, why not take different classes?
  • Don't confuse an outcome (a good grade) with an entire process (skill development through classes over the course of 4 years of undergraduate education). Expect more of yourself than good grades alone; sometimes students can make As in classes without actually pushing themselves to the next level of skill development. . . don't let yourself fall into this snare.
  • Try to plan your life so that you are peaking in LSAT preparation in time for the June test (or October, if June is impossible). Most importantly, however, take the LSAT only if/when you are peaking in preparation.
  • Taking the test early allows you to apply to law school early. With record numbers of applications, applying early is more important than ever. Think of it this way: apply (early) when all the seats for your class are still open. . . not (late) when a portion of the seats have already been filled by the early applicants.
  • Educate yourself about the LSAT and LSAT preparation. If you read nothing else, read Prof. Frank Homer's essay in the Preparing For the LSAT section of this advisement web page.

Ellen Grigsby